From now on, every Friday I am going to be running, 'Something for the Weekend' right here on my blog! What's it going to involve? Author interviews, guest posts, and lots and lots of giveaways! The competitions will be open all weekend, so get entering!
M.F. Let’s start with the most important thing: your books. Give us a brief description of the novel you want to talk about today.
P.L. The Well is my first novel. On the face of it, it’s a simple ‘bottle’ story: two teens fall into an ancient well. One is badly hurt. There’s no way they can climb out. They have very little food or drink. Worse, their parents are away for the weekend, so the fact that they’re missing won’t be known for two or three days. But the story soon expands beyond that.
Every missing person leaves some kind of gap – in the case of Becca, the girl in the well, there are two key people: a predatory man who has been stalking her and her estranged best friend, Hannah. As Becca goes missing, the man turns his attentions to Hannah, who in turn is increasingly worried about her friend. But there’s worse to come – two women know exactly where Becca and her step-brother are and are desperate that they should remain trapped, else a curse hundreds of years old will be fulfilled.
I really want to say more, but part of the horror of The Well is the surprises that it throws at you – characters, situations, challenges and terrible choices. It’s very fast-paced, the most common comment I’ve had from readers is that once they start, they can’t put it down. That’s so satisfying for me – it’s what I was aiming for. Not ‘worthy’ fiction, but a darned good yarn. Several people have told me that they’ve stayed up to the early hours to read it, one girl had nightmares and a few confessed to breaking down in tears. That’s me, bringing misery to the world, one paragraph at a time.
M.F. So what are you working on at the moment? Have you got any new projects in the pipeline?
P.L. I’m currently writing my second novel, which is as yet untitled. Well, it did have a title, but I’ve started to dislike it so I’m considering other names. It’s set in the same location as The Well but with different characters, although there are some crossovers, name checks and nods.
On top of that, I’m plotting the next four or five books. My novels and stories are going to be interrelated – they’re not a series as such, but there will be connecting threads and some overreaching story arcs. The connection between the first two is loose, but I’m going to pull things together as I move forward: I’m not plotting the rest out in detail but I am working out what the connections will be. I’ve had a lot of positive response to the characters in The Well and I’m going to develop some of those already created and add to the community. Sometimes in very surprising ways: just because someone’s a protagonist in one book doesn’t mean they’ll remain safely in that pigeonhole. Anyone who’s read The Well will know that my characters are often conflicted, flawed people. Someone said to me on Twitter yesterday that he was around halfway through the book and he didn’t know which characters to trust. Let’s keep it that way.
I’m also working on a collection of short stories, which is likely to be published first. The latter I’m doing as a writing exercise, really – I grew up as a fan of short stories, in the days when new writers cut their teeth in fiction magazines. They also allow me to explore some of the characters from The Well and upcoming novels in different situations. One of the stories is a ‘challenge accepted’ from a follower on Twitter, it sounds like a daft idea for a story but I’m going to make it work – and make it horrific. I’m not sure I’m on board with the trend of selling one story for 70 cents – it’s cheap but it’s not good value for the reader. My current notion is that the collection will be around a fifth or a quarter of the size of a novel and be priced accordingly, still cheap but better value.
M.F. That sounds like an excellent idea, Peter, something I may have done myself *winks*. When did you first start writing?
P.L I’ve written all my life – though non-fiction. In my day job, I develop websites and write copy for them. I’ve written marketing copy for twenty-five years and also written for magazines. I’ve always wanted to write fiction, though, ever since I was a child. I started to write my first novel in my forties, but didn’t stick at it – mainly because my marketing/website design business was so busy and demanding. When I hit 49, I decided I really had to get on with it. I wrote The Well during that year and published it two months before I was 50.
M.F. What type of writing style do you adopt? Are you a pantser or a plotter?
P.L. A bit of both. I plot meticulously but I leave myself a lot of wriggle-room too. Tightly plotted stories can be predictable – so I tack into the wind every so often. I remember the writer of The Wire, David Simon, saying that he would throw thunderbolts from the gods at his characters, just as they did in Greek tragedies. I do the same – because that’s what life is like. It’s what creates those ‘oh my God did that just really happen?’ moments and keeps readers guessing. So, although I plot in detail, I often leave situations unresolved until I’m writing them – although I may have plotted several routes from the situation I don’t always know which one I’m going to take until I have to.
My stories are very character driven, I think a lot about the characters and especially how they interact with other characters. In life, you may have one friend who another doesn’t get along with – you don’t see that as much in fiction. Also, my characters are like real people: they’re flawed, conflicted and sometimes don’t get to choose between good and bad, but between bad and terrible. Good people making bad choices because they’re the only ones available, for example.
Despite plotting in detail, I have no issue with a radical change if a good one occurs to me. The difference between the first and final drafts of The Well, and my pre-writing notes, is astonishing. One thing you often find in books is that once ‘the world of the book’ takes over, reality steps aside. People don’t need a coffee or to go to the toilet. In my writing, the real world is always there – I think it makes the supernatural more horrific, actually.
M.F Who is your greatest influence?
P.L. I assume you mean as a writer? I’d probably say Stephen King, though I know it’s become unfashionable to like him. I like King because reading one of his books is like watching a movie: the language becomes transparent. That’s how I want to write. Indeed, many of my revisions were to make the writing less showy. Having said that, I love authors whose prose is a joy to read again and again, people like John Irving or John Steinbeck. I adore Poe. I don’t just read horror and I’m not especially worried about genres either. I’ll read chick lit if the book’s good. Yes, I’d say King as a writer, though I’d say Alan Moore is overlooked or underrated, simply because he writes graphic novels: but Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell are superb. The films are great, but the graphic novels are outstanding and so much richer.
M.F. Well, I guess I’m equally unfashionable! Which brings me strangely enough to my next question. Stephen King says when he writes, it is for his wife Tabitha. When you write, is there anyone you are writing for?
P.L. Now that is a good question. I don’t write for my wife, Ruth, or my sons Dave and Mike – though they are all very supportive. I don’t think they’re ‘my readership’. Now, having said that, my second novel my wife refers to as ‘her book’ because she likes the story and characters so much. I don’t think I write for a specific person, but for the reader I want to reach, the person who likes the things I like – horror, but in situations that are grounded and real, with characters that have depth. I’m writing for the reader. I want to take people on a ride: they get on the rollercoaster and don’t know what happens next.
M.F. Great answer! What is the last book you read?
P.L. I’ve recently finished Dating my Vibrator by Suzanne Tyrpak, because I wanted to read something light and short. It was fun and honest. The last novel I read was The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham. I really like Wyndham – The Chrysalids is one of my favourite books ever – but I’d never finished Kraken. I think it’s a bit slow in the early stages. I stuck with it this time and really liked it. I’m currently reading Dead Spell by Belinda Frisch and Somme Mud by EPF Lynch. I frequently read more than one book at once.
M.F. Now for some more abstract questions: If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?
P.L. The Doctor, from Doctor Who. Anywhere, any time – what a great format for a series, no wonder it’s been running for so long. I’d possibly like to be less asexual though. I’d like a time machine. Can I have one?
M.F. If I figure out how to build one, I’ll be sure to let you know! If aliens landed in front of you and offered you anything you wanted, what would it be?
P.L. Please put away the probe. A ride in their spaceship – my wife was fairly disturbed when I said that if I were Richard Dreyfuss at the end of Close Encounters I would get on the ship, family or not. I would love to go into space. There’s a great book called simply Moon which has massive pictures from the Apollo missions – the moon is, as Buzz Aldrin said, “Beautiful, beautiful. Magnificent desolation.” I’d like to hitch a ride there.
M.F. Tell us something quirky or interesting that people probably don’t know about you.
P.L. I used to help run a rock music venue in Bury, back in the late 70s and early 80s. I did lights for Joy Division. Anyone who’s seen the film Control (which I really do recommend) will remember the fight scene just a couple of weeks prior to Ian Curtis committing suicide. That was at The Derby Hall, the venue I used to run, and I was doing lights that night. When it all kicked off, I hid under the table. To be honest, at the time I thought Joy Division were rubbish but my taste is often slow to catch up – I really like them now, I think they were on the brink of genius. I met my real music hero, Peter Gabriel – he had a competition for a private gig at his recoding studies and I won. It was a great gig and wonderful to meet him. I love curry. I hate sprouts and custard.
M.F. Yeah, sprouts and custard wouldn’t work so well for me either! Thanks so much for stopping by, Peter, and for sharing a bit about yourself.
Now giveaway time! Peter has most generously offered to giveaway a personalised, signed copy of his novel, The Well (something to keep for when he is rich and famous!). So just leave him a comment below and you will be entered into the draw on Monday. The competition will be open all weekend and I will put the winners name up here Monday morning! Remember to leave you email addy or blog address so we can contact you if you win.
The Well is available in both paperback and ebook format from Amazon, Amazon.UK, Amazon.Germany, Lulu and iBookstore. If you would like to know more about Peter, he would love it if you stopped by his blog or followed him on twitter!